Literally Different Perspectives – Primary school children
This week i spoke to 200 primary school children and it was the most nerve wracked I’ve ever been. How do you explain to 6-10 year olds what a local councillor is and what we do without seeing their hearts and heads drop.
Luckily it was Herbert Morrison Primary and Peter Mandelson had not long ago visited; most of them knew who Boris Johnson was so i safely told them that I am “like the local Boris” (refraining of course from explaining the party political and ideological differences)
I was there to talk to them about their walk to school and how it could be better for them.
I got three excellent bits of advice from the head teacher Eileen:
speak loudly, slowly and clearly
Do not ask open questions or they will all shout back at you, ask them to “put your hands up if….”
Tell them that they are really important and you need them to help you
And it was fascinating – lots biked to school and most kept their hands up when I asked whether there were broken pavements or holes in the road which made it difficult to cycle. Many kept their hands up when asked if they wanted more flowers and trees on their walk to school, everyone out their hands up when asked if they wanted to help plant them. Some teachers too.
The perspective of how children see the world is very different and one which I don’t think we pay as much notice to as we should. They literally see the world from a lower perspective which makes you rethink where you put low walls, how removal of street barriers might increase road safety but crossing the road scary or how big dog mess relatively to a small person.
I am going back in a couple of weeks to see what they and their classmates have come back to (Wyvil Primary are also doing the same project) and I cannot wait to see what they have come up with.
And I think what will be the most fascinating is how we solve their problems once i bring them back to the council and Lambeth Housing (where many of our children live)
The responses “not my department” “that’s not in the budget code” or “we don’t have permission to do that” are unwelcome at the best of times, but when the requests come from six to ten year olds surely unacceptable? It will indeed be a test of my Council of which I am very proud. I hope they will continue to make me proud.